Delhi Makes Capital As Startup Culture Spreads – The Economic Times – 15-Nov-2014

November 15, 2014 - Uncategorized

 

Northwest Delhi is slowly turning into India’s newest hotspot for technology startups
Students once flocked there to be coached on how to enter elite universities. These days a new breed of youngsters are turning the dusty fringes of northwest Delhi into India’s newest hotspot for technology startups.The low rentals, engineering talent and ease of connectivity are combining to make these areas -that are a mere 30-minute metro ride from central Delhi -a magnet for young entrepreneurs dreaming of building the next billion-dollar startup.

“It is a mini Bangalore -a perfect ecosystem to start a tech product business,“ said Sparsh Gupta, an Oxford University graduate who started website performance testing startup Wingify from his bedroom in West Delhi in 2009.

His company as well as other startup offices in the area offer a range of perks for employees from free laundry service to gyms, gaming rooms, massage chairs, unlimited chocolates and 24×7 food and snacks, once regarded as privileges offered by multinational companies. Wingify and startups like Posist, IIMJobs, Zest.md, TweetSecrets, AdPushup, Acquevix, Zecross and 99Fusion all are located within a radius of about seven kilometres spanning the suburbs of Netaji Subhash Place (NSP), Pitampura and Rohini.

While higher priced locations like Gurgaon and Okhla have several ecommerce companies, West Delhi with its campuses of engineering colleges is emerging as a technology startup hub. “We want to build India’s first billion dollar valued product company and are not even open currently to external funding,“ said Paras Chopra, CEO of Wingify, which earns revenue of over $10 million (Rs 60 crore) a year, all from clients based in the US.

Chopra, an alumnus of Delhi College of Engineering, regards the area as premier hunting ground for recruits. His five-year-old startup occupies the 14th floor of an upmarket building in the area, where rentals are about Rs 60 per square feet, almost half of what a plush Gurgaon set-up charges.

In an adjacent building, 26-year old Shivanshu Jindal runs TweetSecret, a Hollywood-focused celebs tweet platform. The company allows celebs to tweet videos of their backstage and personal life to subscribers and the money earned is shared with the celebrities.The startup, which has its sales headquarters in Los Angeles, works with about 35 celebrities such as WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and Shelly Martinez besides a few Hollywood actors. “The energy of entrepreneurs all around pumps you with motivation every day you come to work,“ said Jindal, who charges about $2.99 per month per user.

Several web training academies in the area skill people in coding. College dropouts Atul Aggarwal and Ankit Oberoi started teaching ethical hacking skills in 2008. The business thrived and they opened over 20 branches across India in last five years. Last year, the duo started AdPushup, a testing platform for online ads. This month, AdPushup raised about Rs 3.8 crore from about 14 angel investors that includes Slideshare co-founder Amit Ranjan and Wingify’s Chopra.

“The web training shops earlier catered to the small merchants of Old Delhi. Now they are catering to the US companies,“ said Oberoi, 25, who has registered his company in Delaware, US. Backed by seed capital, he is now opening a new office replete with nap rooms, gym, foosball and free cafeteria to attract the technology talent from across India.

The recruitment strategy is working.“West Delhi was one of the last places on my bucket list to even visit in India. But the billion-dollar dreams of Wingify founders has pulled me here,“ said Sanket Nadhani, now responsible for global expansion at the Delhi-based startup. He moved from Bangalore, where he was head of marketing at enterprise software maker FusionCharts.

The young entrepreneurs from the area are also investing in each other’s companies. MantraGrid Inc founder Arun Bansal, who has started TheServerGuy , a marketplace of server experts, has also invested in AdPushup. “TheServerGuy is a global marketplace curated by us and run from Delhi to solve any server problem for global customers,“ said Bansal, 25. His previous company MantraGrid provides IT services and grosses over Rs 1 crore a year from West Delhi.

Things weren’t as rosy few years ago.Recruitment consultants would reject West Delhi-based Ashish Tulsian’s requests just four years ago to find them some senior talent for a telecom software company. “Candidates won’t even turn up for an interview,“ said Tulsian, who shut the telecom venture to start Posist, a cloud-based restaurant management platform. Last month Posist raised Rs 3 crore from investors such as Sameer Guglani of Chandigarh-based incubator The Morpheus and Muthu Murugappan, scion of the Rs 22,500crore Murugappa Group. “The spread of metro across the capital has eased recruitment. It is encouraging people to start up,“ he added.

Industry experts are of the view that the presence of techies from local college campuses and a vibrant community of ethical hackers has helped to nurture the tech ecosystem in the area.

“(They) are now branching out to develop global tech products,“ said Mumbai Angels’ member Utsav Somani, who has invested in local technology startups like AdPushup, Testbook and Zippr.

 

The Economic Times

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